Community Planning and Early Childhood Education

A piece by Program Coordinator, Carlie Bangs


Many times we hear and discuss how “it takes a village”. Well, that’s because in many communities it does take broad understanding of early childhood education and collaboration among key stakeholders in order to see impact. One nearby successful initiative comes from Boulder, CO where they looked at their community assets and strengths to involve children of all ages, beginning at 4 years old, to work in community development.


Growing Up Boulder is an initiative that was formed in 2009 as a partnership between the City of Boulder, Boulder Valley School District, and the University of Colorado’s Program in Environmental Design. The child friendly initiative works directly with Boulder Journey School, a Reggio Emilia preschool. Teachers at this school have strong beliefs of democratic process among its students, gaining an appreciation for the outdoors, as well as children’s involvement in their local community. Through this process, Boulder Journey School students (ages 4 and 5) were able to influence public open space in Boulder.


Students contributed to the redesign of Boulder’s civic area, a public space in the city’s downtown area, which was being redesigned because of the increased flood risk through the corridor. Children from Boulder Journey School were brought to the open space and provided green and red frames, and a camera to assess the space as it was. They were encouraged to take photos of what they liked with a green frame, and what they didn’t like with the red frame. Students brought what they learned about the design of the space back to their class to create a life size civic park with blocks and stuffed animals. The Boulder Lead City Planner even participated by coming to see their design.

Children 0-18 years old influenced adult planners, council members, and community members in the design of this public space. While children are often forgotten throughout the community development and planning process, they are actually the perfect community planners as they are allowed to think about possibilities rather than restraints like budget, liability, time. Of course, some children wanted candy parks and spray guns, but there were also huge takeaways. It was noticed that children have a biological need for nature and it shows up in their design. Children felt that nature must be nearby and accessible as they can no longer venture blocks from their home to explore a nearby creek. Throughout the process, they found children often include nonhuman species in their design, all living creatures not cars, egos, or corporations.

They found that children exhibit high levels of empathy when considering use of the space by people and animals- and insects! After exploring and assessing the civic park area, the Boulder Journey Students had some concerns about the insects they encountered. Back in the preschool classroom, students researched the different features of insects and created costumes of insects including antennae and wings. Teachers facilitated this learning and inquiry by projecting large insect shadows on a wall so that children could experience the scale at which humans appear to insects. The students’ recommendations showed concern that insects might be hurt by visitors on trails and wanted to protect the insects and their homes. No matter the age, Growing Up Boulder has found that desires for nature protection and enhancement emerge across projects and ages, in early childhood and beyond.

While it may sound outlandish and a little crazy to include our youngest citizens in designing and planning our community, a city friendly to children is city friendly to ALL. Safe sidewalks serve the needs of individuals in wheelchairs, as well as the new mom wanting to get out of the house with a stroller and her young children. Frequent and affordable bus routes help teens access their community, family access resources like the local library, as well as adults who want to age in place. In many ways, children are an indicator species for the entire community as they can’t jump in a car to get where they want to go or purchase expensive meals. A community that serves the needs of children, will also serve the needs of many other minority groups within a community. We also can’t forget the benefits a program like this does to children in our community. To participate in large scale planning, their education is integrated into real life situations, empathy and process are naturally learned through community activism.


External Sources:

TedXMile High, November 2017  with Mara Mintzer

Back to School: Support Your Child’s Learning

From EVICS Executive Director, Nancy Almond:

From birth, children imitate their parents. Parents are the most significant people in a child’s life, and their first and very best teachers!  As a new parent, you put a lot of time and energy into your baby’s care and nurture. As children mature we begin to look to outside sources, such as schools, churches and clubs, to expand our child’s learning and experience. However, as children grow, parents influence and involvement becomes even more critical than ever!  As we approach Fall and making the transition back to school, consider how you can participate in your child’s education, both in and out of the classroom.  Whether your child attends preschool, childcare, or elementary school, they are ALL learning environments. Research shows that when parents are involved and engaged in their child’s growth, development and education, children have greater self-esteem and learning success.

Parents can participate by encouraging and supporting your child’s learning, and being actively involved with activities and environments.  As a busy parent, it can feel challenging to find time to participate in your child’s learning and this can be frustrating.  However, there are many ways to demonstrate support and encouragement even when you don’t have time to actively volunteer.  Communicating with the child’s teacher, creating a learning environment at home, attending school events and meetings, and contributing treats and household craft items, are all helpful ways to be involved.  Parents’ involvement sends a strong message to children that school is important and that home and school are connected.

Don’t wait until Kindergarten to “get involved” in your child’s education!  Children are born learning and parent involvement is crucial from the very beginning. You can foster your child’s early learning experiences by taking time to talk with your childcare provider or teacher each day.  Ask how you can best support and extend your child’s learning and experience. Ask for one-on-one talk time when needed, and never underestimate how important and powerful your sincere “thank you” can be!  Happy Back-to-School to all!

Now Hiring!


EVICS is currently looking to add to our team! Contact Parent Education Coordinator, Kristen Berg, at or call 970-586-3055.

Hidden Summer Activities in Estes Park for Children 0-5

Are you looking for activities in Estes Park that are unique for your younger child? We love story time, the tram, getting an ice cream downtown, or checking out the new community center, but there’s an entire summer full of days to fill with activities! EVICS has compiled a list of activities that are “off the beaten path” that are free, or cheap, and provide a new experiences to Estes Park locals and visitors. Please comment if you have additional hidden summer activities!

Storybook Trail

Head to Stanley Park and venture toward the bike path on the eastern side of the playground. Follow the panels along the trail that carry you through a children’s book. The experience combines the joy of reading with getting outdoors. The Storybook Trail is a gift to the community for local families and visitors. Many thanks to its generous sponsors: the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado and Estes Park Rotary Club. It is made possible through a partnership of Estes Valley Library and Estes Valley Recreation and Park District.

Picnic at Riverside/Baldwin Park

An off the beaten path park, the Riverside Park near the Post Office boasts a large grassy area (one of the few in Estes Park). Right along the river, there is a small playground and picnic tables. Or bring a blanket and lunch for a great picnic!

 Bicycle Pump Track

EPCC photo of the new pump track!

Get the Strider bike out and hit the trail! The perimeter trail of the pump track at Stanley Park was recently completed through donations and the Estes Park Cycling Coalition. There is also a small skate park nearby! It is recommended that children be 3-5 years old for the trail. Remember to wear a helmet!

Lake Estes Marina

Bring the shovel and pail and lather on the sunscreen! Play at the Marina playground, wade into the (cold) water, and play in the sand. If you want to get out on the water, rent kayaks, paddle boards, paddle boats, canoes, pontoon boats, bikes, pedal carts, and rods and reels. Open from May to early October.

Feed the ducks

Head over to Coffee on the Rocks to feed the ducks at their peaceful, well landscaped pond. Stop inside to get a nice coffee, pastry, or sandwich. Be sure to head inside and purchase their duck food (corn) as they don’t like you feeding them bread.

See the stars at the Estes Park Memorial Observatory

Check their schedule for open house nights or their educational lectures.

Fish Creek trail bike ride

Biking along the Fish Creek trail.

Head to what the locals fondly call “Broccoli Park” off of HWY 7 and Carriage Drive. Park at the playground and access the bike trail heading east where you’ll meet up with the Fish Creek bike trail. This trail will take you all the way to Stanley Park, to Lake Estes, or all the way to downtown Estes Park. Remember, you cannot ride on the Riverwalk once you’ve accessed downtown so please walk your bikes! The entire loop is quite flat and appropriate for new bikers or adults with bike trailers.

Explore the Knoll

Across from the Stanley Hotel on Wonderview Ave, you will find a small parking lot that accesses a short trail system to the top of the knoll where you will find remnants of an old home. Along the trails there are many spots for exploration and benches to soak in the view of downtown Estes Park and Longs Peak. A short walk and tons of exploration- perfect for little ones!

Casey’s Train

Historic photo of Casey’s Train.

Ride the Silver Streak “Casey’s Train” miniature train through a historical landscape! Casey’s Train is an historical activity dating back to mid-1900’s when Phil “Casey” Martin would offer rides in downtown Estes Park. Nowadays, head to Ride-A-Kart (2250 Big Thompson Ave) where you’ll find Casey’s Train, bumper cars, go karts, mini golf, and so much more. $3.00 per ride for all ages. Infants sitting on laps are free.

Climbing Park at Performance Park

Some of the more difficult climbing at the Climbing Park.

Great climbing for beginners and young children. The Climbing Park located at the west end of Elkhorn Avenue is very accessible as it sits right behind the Performance Park stage. Climbing routes vary allowing for fun for all ages and levels.  The easier routes located behind the stage and get harder as you move along the rock closer to the river.

Mom and dad showing 3 year old Lo how to climb.

Not Estes Park, but worth the drive- Lyons Laverne M. Johnson Park

Located in nearby community, Lyons CO is a 20-minute drive from Estes Park. The Laverne M. Johnson Park was newly established after the 2013 floods and boasts a splash pad, river access, zip line, tree house, and much more! Picnic tables and bathroom amenities make it a perfect stop for a full day of fun! $5 park fee

EVICS Playgroup Update

As spring comes to an end and with summer right around the corner, staff at EVICS are busy planning for future programming and new initiatives. We are constantly evaluating the impact of our programs and identifying opportunities for growth and improvement. As we began looking at our playgroup structure and delivery we have decided to make a few changes to our weekly group. Starting in June we will no longer be offering a structured weekly playgroup time. Many families come regularly to our groups and we would encourage you to continue to meet informally at the same time 10-11 on Wednesdays to keep the routine for you and your child. In the summer, Stanley Park is a great place to meet up! This will allow you to maintain your social connections you have made with other parents and their children. This form of socialization from birth on, is critical to your child’s development. EVICS staff will host one playgroup each month during the summer, which will have a more focused format and specific skill exploration. These playgroups will be held at Stanley Park in the small shelter near the playground on Wednesdays from 10-11. Here’s the schedule for the summer:

            June 27th Art in the Park

            July 25th Water Play

            August 29th Block Party

In September playgroups will be managed by EVRPD and will resume in the Community Center featuring some new programming options and experiences! We’ll communicate the specific changes as they evolve. If you have questions or concerns about this information, please don’t hesitate to reach out and talk with one of our staff members at 970586-3055.



Incredible Years! Free Parenting Class

Have you ever considered that more training is required to obtain a driver’s license than to become a parent? Because kids don’t come with instruction guides—EVICS is partnering up with SummitStone Health Partners to offer a FREE 6-week series of parenting classes for families of children ages 3-6! The Incredible Years is an evidence-based program backed by 30 years of research. Parents will learn practical tips, information and new research on how to support children’s social/emotional development and prevent challenging behaviors. Why do children do the things they do and how can parents respond in a way that promotes positive behaviors? Children who develop healthy social and emotional skills early in life are better prepared for school and life success.
The class will meet at the Estes Valley Community Center – lower level classroom, on Wednesday evenings, 5:30-7:30, June 6 – July 11 (No class on July 4) Class instructor is Corinna Crandall, Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant. Childcare is provided! Ages 1-4 will enjoy playtime in the CubzDen (cost: $4 per child, half price for 2nd child), and children ages 5 and over will enjoy supervised play time in the gym at no cost. Dinner will be provided for parents and children. Families who attend all 6 sessions will receive a $50 Safeway Gift Card.

Registration is required. Please contact:
EVICS at 586-3055/
OR Corinna Crandall at 970-342-5325

Early Childhood Educators Receive a Mindful Professional Development Day   

The YMCA of the Rockies offered a beautiful setting for the EVICS 9th Annual Estes Park Early Childhood Conference on April 21. The day focused on mental health, wellness, and mindfulness for Early Childhood Professionals and the children in their care, encouraging providers to take care of themselves so they can care for children. Forecasts for heavy snow made travels worrisome but did not deter the nearly 60 early childhood professionals from Estes Park and across the Front Range, who braved the weather and came together for a day of learning, networking, reflection, and fun. Conference keynote speaker, Kelly Burns, set the tone for the day discussing sustainable mindfulness practices for the classroom. Kelly offered an experiential understanding of the latest neuroscience on mindfulness in the classroom. Many educators and childcare providers reach burn out because they do not have practices like Kelly discussed, including reflection, meditation, and being present throughout the day. Integrating mindfulness techniques into your day provides sustainable and manageable leadership in the childcare or teaching setting.  Additional presenters throughout the day built upon this message and included play therapists, mental health professionals, nutritionists, and teachers and instructional coaches. Morning yoga and lunch time meditation allowed attendees to take time to take care of themselves throughout the day.

Attendees ranged from infant and toddler family child care providers to elementary school teachers and other specialists. Conference evaluations clearly indicated that the Estes Park Conference was a big success this year!  Many thanks to the YMCA of the Rockies for their partnership and generous donation of beautiful meeting facilities, and to Poppy’s Restaurant, the Donut Haus, and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for providing excellent food and treats. Thanks also goes out to the many Estes Park businesses that donated great door prizes, including the Ridgeline Hotel and Latitude 105 and Rock Cut Brewing Company- a long standing and popular tradition of this conference!

Estes Valley Investment in Childhood Success (EVICS) is a non-profit agency working to support and promote quality early care and education for all children in the Estes Valley.  Donations to the organization are 100% tax deductible and volunteers are needed for a variety of activities and committees.  For more information please contact EVICS:   970-586-3055

Be Ready for Kindergarten!

EVICS, Estes Valley Library, and Estes Park School District come together to prepare children for kindergarten!

School starts August 22, 2018!  Do you have a child who will be going to kindergarten? EVICS has begun passing out Be Ready backpacks to local preschools for all children heading to kindergarten. These Be Ready backpacks include information about school readiness, as well as some essentials for kindergarten. Be Ready is a countywide initiative to ensure that all young children in Larimer County are prepared and ready for school success. School readiness begins at birth! Be Ready strives to engage the broader community in its efforts to provide consistent and reliable information to all parents of young children. Be Ready provides a “Ready Set Kindergarten” guide for each 4-year old entering school that provides fun activities for making friends and getting along in the classroom, tips to get ready for reading, writing, and math, as well as a month by month guide to keep your family on track with kindergarten registration, vaccinations, and more!  This guide is available at EVICS, online at and is in each Be Ready backpack provided to your preschooler. If your child does not attend a local preschool, but is preparing for going to school, please contact EVICS at or stop by the office to receive a backpack and other school readiness information.

EVICS is partnering with Estes Park School District and the Estes Valley Library for a Be Ready School Readiness Fair on Saturday, April 7 that will include children’s activities, professional “ask” the experts, community resources, developmental screening information, and more! This free event is for all children 0-6 years old and their families! We hope to see you there!


Playgroups Move to Community Center

Estes Valley Investment in Childhood Success (EVICS) has some exciting changes happening with their weekly playgroups. Playgroups occur every Wednesday from 10-11 throughout the year. Over time we have changed the format and location based off parent and staff feedback. Currently we are averaging 10 families (with their children) each week and we hope our groups continue to grow! Playgroups provide a critical opportunity for social connections between parents and their kids ages 0-5. We offer rotating themes focusing on certain developmental domains to enhance your child’s growth and development and not to mention they are A LOT of fun!

Starting in March we have formed a new partnership with the Estes Valley Community Center. Playgroups will continue to be offered on Wednesdays from 10-11 at our new location-The Community Center. There may be some special exceptions to that schedule, and we will make sure to share that through our email list as well as Facebook page. Each week we will rotate through the Community Center amenities. The schedule for March is as follows: 7th-The pool, 14th-gym, 21st-pool and there will be no playgroup on March 28th. On pool days please bring a towel and on gym days please wear non marking sole shoes.

Strollers are welcome in the gym space. Attending our playgroups will not require membership or a daily pass fee. They will continue to be a free community service for any family with children ages 0-5 participating in our program. This is not a drop off program, and caregivers are required to stay and actively engage in the activities with their children each week.

For more information on this program, or other EVICS programming please contact Kristen Berg at or call the office at 970-586-3055.